Self-driving cars may seem a fantastical concept, but they’re close to coming to market and pose very real implications for insurance coverage. This week Volvo has announced
a major new test of self driving cars on the streets of London, UK. And Volvo has provided the first concrete answer as to who may be at fault in a self-driven auto accident: Volvo.
The Swedish auto maker stated on Wednesday that they would assume full liability should any of its cars be involved in an accident while operating in autonomous mode.
President and Chief Executive Officer Håkan Samuelsson stated Volvo’s stance is in efforts to move self-driving cars to market faster, as a lack of legal framework could delay product launches.
“The U.S. risks losing its leading position due to the lack of federal guidelines for the testing and certification of autonomous vehicles," Samuelsson stated in prepared remarks. "Europe has suffered to some extend by having a patchwork of rules and regulations. It would be a shame if the U.S. took a similar path."
Self-driven, or autonomous cars use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and location technology to operate, and are currently legally tested in California, Nevada, Michigan and Florida, though they require a human driver to be present in the vehicle at all times. Testing will begin in Ontario this year, also with a human driver present.
It remains to be seen whether the precedent set by Volvo will be adopted by Canadian car manufacturers, or whether the insurance industry will develop a new form of coverage. Currently, the widely-adopted stance on autonomous car liability is that the owner of the car is on the hook in case of an accident – whether or not they’re in the vehicle at the time.
Self-driving cars are heralded to reduce the number of accident-related fatalities, as well as alleviate traffic congestion – but they also pose the question of cyber security, as part of the growing “internet of things”. Last July, two hackers intentionally took control of a Jeep Cherokee to illustrate the possible cyber threat to Vice reporter Andy Greenberg.